Labyrinth as a Birth Guide
Pam England, author and founder of Birthing From Within, stated that a mother’s experience in labor is much like navigating a labyrinth. When a mother begins labor she embarks over the threshold and steps into the labyrinth or “LabOrinth.” Walking the labyrinth is a reminder of reconnecting with our own bodies and natural rhythm of life. Women preparing for birth can use a labyrinth as a guide, a meditative tool, and even as a practice to cope with pain during their labor.
Mother and Child Labyrinth
Labyrinths have a deep history of being symbols of birth. The Hopi believed the vertical line in the labyrinth represents the umbilical cord and the path of emergence, while the cross at the entrance represents the Sun Father, giver of life. In India, Hindu midwives hang a Yantra or labyrinth on the wall for the laboring woman to see. While she is feeling her way through birth, her eyes can follow the path and go back and forth, left to right, right to left. Consequently, her brain waves change from fast thinking to a slower, meditative, and intuitive way of being. In labor, women do not need to think their way or memorize all the facts, statistics, and information in birth books. The women’s body inherently knows how to birth.
Once on her journey in the labyrinth, she will step on the winding path until she reaches the center. This meandering path, the alternating left and right, or the clockwise and counterclockwise direction of the labyrinth, creates a vital natural pattern that is kinesthetically incorporated in her birthing body. The center of the labyrinth represents life, the birth of her child, the birth of the newly formed mother and father, and the birth of the family. Pam England states, “A mother could be blindfolded and still reach the center by feeling her way through the path. She doesn’t need to study the path before she enters it.”
How Labyrinth and Labor are Similar
Entry point into the labyrinth
Emotional and physical signs indicating the beginning of labor
One direct path to the center
Labor will progress and baby will come out either medically or naturally
Twists and Turns
Labyrinth move left and right, back and forth, up and down leading the labyrinth walker closer to the center
Labor may feel like it is slowing down, speeding up, getting closer or stalling out, however, the process moves the mother closer to her baby's birth
Labyrinths have their own unique rhythmic movement by their symetrical design
Contractions have a rhythmic timing
Prayerful connection, birth of new thoughts, ideas and wisdom
Move towards the exit with wisdom, thoughts and ideas, transformation
Gates in the Labyrinth
Labyrinths remind women how to feel and intuit their way through pregnancy, labor, and parenting. According to Pam England, there are four great gates that are planted in the labyrinth.
- The gate of doubt
- The gate of faith
- The gate of determination
- The gate of love
Laboring mother’s face each gate at some point in the labyrinth. She will face and find her way through each of these gates. These gates are not in any particular order and can be different for the laboring mother.
Once to the center, the birth of her baby, she will begin to travel out of the labyrinth. How long will it take? Our cultural, usually states that in 6 weeks, she will be ready, to work again, be intimate again, separate from her baby if needed and back to herself. It’s a long wayward journey to fully experience birth and being a new parent. Some say it takes 2 ½ years to 3 years to exit the 'LabOrinth.'
What do you think?
Using a labyrinth during labor can be benificial for mothers.
How to Use a Birth Labyrinth
A labyrinth can be used in labor several ways during labor.
A mother and her birth partner can walk a labyrinth during the early stages of labor. Labyrinths are found in hospitals, parks, or churches. If there is an opportunity to walk a labyrinth during the early stages of labor, this can help center a mother and help mentally and mindfully prepare her for labor.
A mother can make a finger labyrinth during her pregnancy or purchase one. During labor, she can use her finger and trace the labyrinth path in, around to the center and out again. This finger labyrinth can be meditative and help with pain coping by giving her something else to focus on. In addition, a labyrinth also holds the reminder that this labor will come to an end and you will get to the center and birth your baby.
Labyrinths made of clay are especially durable during labor. Clay labyrinth can be used in water and brought into a laboring tub.
Coping with Labor
Sometimes mother's are bed bound or in active labor and are not able to use a finger or walking labyrinth. Instead, she can hang a labyrinth image up on the wall and look at it as a visual reminder.
Using Labyrinths in Labor
Labyrinths have a way of gently reminding mothers both in labor and in life, despite doubts about where she is going and how she is going to get there, she must keep moving forward. At times in labor, the closer she feels she is getting near the end or the center of the labyrinth, surprisingly the path seems to turn her around again. With perseverance, faith, and determination the continuation of the path will eventually lead her to the center or the birth of her baby.
Labor is a journey, and on the journey, she will gain her footing as a new mother. A labyrinth can be a powerful symbol of wholeness and transformation for birthing mothers.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2013 Carly Sullens